Archive | April, 2018

Frankie vah

27 Apr

Luke Wright is a real poet who writes in iambic pentameters, telling the story of an eighties era entertainer called Frankie Vah, a poet from Essex. Father a Vicar – a conservative. Frankie won’t go along with this. His hero is Tony Benn and his ambition is to help him become Prime Minister and run the country in socialist style.
The show begins with a video ident of moments from the eighties. The ugly faces, the ranting poets, alternative comedians, John Cooper Clarke, the women of Greenham Common, the ever present spitting image of Margaret Thatcher.
Luke appears as Frankie, he dresses like an eighties icon specially featuring the Doc Martins which allow him to move like a dancer. This is a poet who behaves like an actor – (unlike the poets we used to have on our poetry evenings at the Pindar. Mind you the presence of beer might have created much of the atmosphere in those days.)
After messing up his degree he meets his girl friend Eve who is also a lover of Doc Martins. She is a painter and in no need of a husband type of boyfriend. They have fun together especially after he storms from the family home after owning to his father that he has always had to pretend to believe in God and religion. Frankie is much more on the side of Tony Benn, (Power to the People)
We follow his career in performance poetry and his involvement with a soul band. He becomes more and more successful always fighting for his hero. When the election arrives, his young heart screams out ‘Let it be Benn’ Sadly it doesn’t exactly work out and he then blames it on Neil Kinnock.
This is his downfall. All ends in tears and Margaret Thatcher – as it did for all of us at that time. He called her Lady Winter. The lady is not for Turning, and not for feeling either.
Luke Wright is a born performer with an actors voice and a dancer’s body. He is worth going to see because his performance has great entertainment value. It is a brilliant poem, with a lot of laughs and a lot of drama.
The strange black room upstairs at the Soho Theatre was disaster for me last time I went to see a poet there. I couldn’t keep awake. It is a closed room and rather warm. But for Luke Wright one wouldn’t want to miss a word. His work is riveting. Divided into convenient stanzas and each slice is produced at different areas in the room. His rants on the microphone are greeted with huge rounds of applause.
Definitely worth seeing and hearing.

27 Apr

This is a play that should be seen – not just by gay people, but by humankind….– a poem by a man who knows how the English language works and uses it to the fullest effect.”
Lovely, perceptive review by the great Aline Waites for “SEX/CRIME” at The Glory with Alexis Gregory, Jonny Woo and Mike Robertson. Closes this Saturday…
By Alexis Gregory
The Glory is a jaunty East End pub full of fairy lights and tinsel with a small stage backed by a slash cloth at one end – a place just waiting for a drag act to perform. This is a packed house, a crowd of people waiting, anticipating something that they know is going to be an event. Something different and just a tiny bit scary. We know it would be downstairs behind the narrow door, but the door is closed and guarded by the man in a multi-coloured kimono.
The event is due to start any minute, but apparently the actors are still rehearsing – practising – this is the last week of the run, surely they know it by now!. But the fact that we are being kept waiting adds to the mystique.
At last we are allowed down a long dark narrow staircase into a realm of blackness. The cellar is black, the ceiling is low and black. On a dais in front of us there is just a covered up sofa – the only sign of comfort in that bleak cellar.
Jonny Woo, an elegant businessman is in a suit – looking super- efficient, and well in charge of the proceedings. Another man, Alexis Gregory, smaller, bearded less self-confident frightened but eager for what is to happen.
First of all the paper work has to be taken care of. The younger man’s CV has to be explored. His booking confirmation is checked. Terms and conditions, Health and safety all must be looked into.
It became borne upon us that this is a murder scene, the bearded man is here to be killed and killed as brutally as possible. The two are planning to enact another recent killing – a vicious sex crime. Alex is hoping that afterwards he will be on Television just like the other victim.
Here is a fearsome scenario, described as a comedy. But although the funny lines come thick and fast – as thick and fast as the cruel ones, it is a beautifully written piece – a poem by a man who knows how the English language works and uses it to the fullest effect.
The play is described as a comedy. It’ s a comedy about violence. They are there to re create a brutal murder. The two men are determined to make this the best killing ever. The one who plays the master and the killer, is upper class and sophisticated, the other, lower in class is the victim. A neat echo of current politics.
The cleverest thing about this play is the total lack of violence. A stamp of the foot equals a blow to the head, but it is so frightening one can feel it. When the slaughter takes place, there is a blackout and we hear the screams in total darkness. We are forced to exercise our imaginations.
Robert Chevara is the director of this piece and as always he is able to create an experience for the audience that completely exposes our deepest feelings of fear – and he works brilliantly with the comic thrust of Alex’s script which makes us laugh at the same time.
It is a considered a queer play – and indeed it is homosexual sex we are talking about, but it would appeal just as much to anyone involved in human life. I confess I cannot totally understand everything, but I enjoyed experiencing it. This is a play that should be seen – not just by gay people, but by humankind.
Great lighting by Mike Robertson.



23 Apr


Tom Littler, artistic director of the little Jermyn Street theatre has done an amazing job. He has directed nine short plays by Noel Coward with the same nine actors. These nine plays will be presented all day on Saturday and again on Sunday During the week they will be played three per evening. How delightful to get involved in the rarified air of Coward’s sophisticated world of the nineteen thirties..
Noel described the nine plays as ‘Brilliantly written, exquisitely directed and I am bewitching in all of them’. Of course, in the original, all the leading roles were played by the Master himself and his greatest muse Gertrude Lawrence. In Littler’s production they are ensemble pieces with each actor given one or two opportunities to shine.
The bunches of three are given names. “Bedroom Farces” consists of ‘We were dancing’ a daft couple who dance together and instantly fall in love as is the way in the Noel Coward Martini driven life style. Would be unfair to give the ending even though it is inevitable. ‘Ways and Means’ is a comedy about a young married couple who live on their wits and other peoples’ money on the Riviera. They are deep in debt and have to find some way of coping with financial disaster.
In the “Nuclear Families” section – ‘Family Album’ is a hilarious funeral with some rather good choral singing. ‘Hands Across the Sea’ is probably the funniest of all, some people have arrived at her dwelling and Lady Piggy, who invited them, cannot quite remember who they are. (My personal favourite – I understand her dilemma perfectly.) ‘The Astonished Heart’ was made into a film is about a married psychiatrist who falls in love with as temptress. This I felt was the least successful of all. Melodramatic with little sympathy for the characters involved. Coward could never quite believe in love.
The most well- known of the plays happens in “Secret Hearts”. ‘Red Peppers’ is probably the best known – I didn’t feel this was altogether successful – that the act was not really well worked out = but we must remember the amount of work these actors have to learn and remember. The final play in this set is ‘Still Life’ which was made into the film Brief Encounter. Another of the typical Coward lovers who never have much luck. But this is gentler than most and not quite so much alcohol involved.
It would be good to name all the actors, but it is an excellent ensemble and they are all in it together including the musical director. Needless to say they are all highly respected members of the profession.
It is a most fascinating way to spend Saturday or Sunday and I recommend seeing them all on one day if possible. Go back in time. Enter into Coward’s world. It is fun, though hardly realistic. And no worse for that.


23 Apr

Katherine Turner****
At the other Palace
Katherine Turner is a familiar face to everyone who ever goes to the movies. Here she is in person. A big personality, a Goddess in flowing black trousers and backed by brilliant musical director Mark Jasan at the grand piano plus base and guitar. A perfect combination. The lighting at the Other Palace is fantastic and she is shown in a most favourable light. She is a gal who is proud of being herself so she needs to feel relaxed in her situation.
She is a lady of extreme intelligence. She comes from an unusually varied background. Her father was a diplomat and she had moved all across the world before she started her formal education. She has a very strong personal and political conscience and the second half of her show shows this perfectly, beginning with ‘Buddy can you Spare a Dime’ a song from the twenties, which , sadly has become relevant today. She sings this to break your heart and she follows this with ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught’ from South Pacific. the Hammerstein plea for religious and colour tolerance.
She tells us she gets told to start at the top and begins with ‘Who knows where or When’ and follows this quickly with another piece of audience flattery ‘Let’s fall in love’
The first half is beautifully organised. Telling amusing theatrical stories in her deep famously gravelly voice and allowing them to lead into songs like ‘pick yourself up, start all over again’
Many people expect their cabaret stars to sing in a fashionable style. But her voice just doesn’t lend itself that way. Her voice resembles an old gravel pathway, but it is far more expressive than that of someone who just sings without making complete sense of the lyrics. She is a great actress, not a singer
She tells us of her terrible illness, Rheumatoid Arthritis and her years of being confined to a wheelchair. She thought this would be to the end of her life until she found a man who was working on a miracle cure, and though it took a lot of strength and stamina, she got herself cured and after a couple of years she managed to get over here to appear in The Graduate.
The theatre is her world and makes it obvious with songs like ‘Any place I hang my hat is home” and of course “Send in the Clowns.’ Here she exposes her heart and her brain to us. It doesn’t matter for a moment that her singing voice is a croak. In addition to being a Goddess, a politician and a trifle scary, she is vastly entertaining


23 Apr

By Lionel Bart
at the Union Theatre

“Twang “ is one of the saddest stories in Theatrical musical history.
“Fings aint wot they used t’be” – Lionel Bart wrote at the height of his musical theatre fame.. He wrote single pop songs for Cliff Richard – “ Livin’ Doll “and Tommy Steel ”Handful of songs” Both of which appear in this latest re resurrection of Twang. The original cost an absolute fortune and lost all the money Bart had made on his fabulously successful show “Oliver”. He even was forced to sell the copyright on this so that he had no chance of making back any money from the enormously still popular and successful revivals.
“Twang” was the third of his latest trilogy which included “Maggie May” and “Blitz” both expensive shows that never paid their way. But “Twang” was a complete disaster, with script changes daily and infighting. It just never came together despite much help from friends. He just couldn’t get it together.
In this rewritten version, the jokes belong to 1950s kind of camp humour around the time when the world became aware of polare from Julian and Sandy, Kenneth Williams and HUGH Paddick on radio. Of course, these jokes now seem awfully stale and are only funny to certain large men in the audience who think anything camp is hilarious. It was also the time when the Carry On comedies were dwindling and concentrating too much on camp and sex jokes which soon got played out.
So the book is not witty or clever in any way and there is not a vestige of plot in Act One. However the piece is saved a little by the energy and enjoyment of the 16 strong cast. It is a romp for them and a lot of rough singing and frenetic choreography.
But the unforgiveable thing is that it is SO LONG! I thought act one was never going to end. Too many big production numbers that give the impression it’s the end, but they go on – and on.
Apart from that Poor old Robin Hood, my hero, who is dressed in a woolly cardigan like an old woman, (how could they do that?) In this play he is an abject coward having lost his ‘Twang’ and all the heroism is performed by Little John and Much the Miller’s son who is really the star of the show. Much turns up in the forest and can’t understand why everybody is singing and dancing. But he is a feisty little soul and helps Robin keep his reputation.
I enjoyed the singing of Alan A Dale – he sings Living Doll – eventually with a nice clear voice and with his guitar and Marian – the soprano got a nice song to sing
There were no mikes thank goodness, but the cast obviously missed them and used bits of wood to sing into instead.
All I can say is “Twang is, sadly, exactly wot it used t’be”



    12 Apr

    Benjamin Alborough has written a really funny play. Something that you can come out feeling happy, feeling you’ve have a jolly good laugh. The author is a young man obviously obsessed by the Art of comedy and very very good at it. Writing and performing.
    He and his director both realise the importance of music to get an audience into the right state of mind. The atmosphere is set up with terrific jazz as we enter the theatre and as we leave we have ragtime (Everybody’s doin’ it)
    What is so astonishing about this play is that it very closely resembles the kind of comedy he is far too young to remember, but he has obviously studied The Goons. He and his director Benedict Philipp have a clear mental connection and they have collected some really talented actors – just three plus Alborough himself – who can exactly reproduce the ridiculous characters. The setting is early twentieth century and the author plays Eddie Spangler – a kind of Bertie Wooster in blazer and shorts, with Eoin McAndrew as the very perfect and loving butler who knows the answer to everything A kind of Jeeves taking a step further in his love of his master.
    Aiden Change is Lord Wiggins a wild over camp guy who is love sick over Emily Rose – an off stage maiden. And Edward Spence is Lord Biggins who is the most evil villain ever to tread the boards. In addition to their named roles the actors play several others. There is a fun reference to Burt Kwouk when Aiden Cheng plays a Haltemprice policeman. He is also described in the script as blonde and blue eyes when he is so obviously Chinese.
    But clever as the cast are, nothing could have happened if it had not been for the two Bens putting so much work and crazy ideas in to the production. Adding to the general idiocy is the set of props, beautifully designed in cardboard by Ivo de Jaeger who is also responsible for the pictures on the wall and on the programme. We must also mention the choreographer Hector Mitchell Turner and the original music by Olivia Rose Deane.
    This is an excellent antidote to the serious problems of the day. So great to hear great guffaws of laughter from the audience.

    harold and maude (mark two)

    12 Apr

    By Colin Higgins
    At the Charing Cross Theatre

    It must have been a difficult decision for Thom Southerland, director of this 1970s comedy to find a suitable replacement for the marvellous Sheila Hancock. But, it was a stroke of genius to decide on Linda Marlowe. She is the very essence of the aging hippie whose existential philosophies were such a part of the seventies flower-power culture. One totally believes in this character with her disregard for anything except immediate problems. She needs to go on a journey? She just jumps into anybody’s car and drives off. She pities a seal in the zoo, swimming in dirty water. She kidnaps him, puts him in her bathtub until she gets the opportunity to return him to the sea.
    Another casting triumph is the part of Harold which is now being played by Patrick Walshe McBride. Dwarfing the tiny, colourful Maude, he is very tall and good looking with a wonderful deadpan delivery until he falls under Maude’s spell and reveals a sweet mischievous smile.
    The actor-musicians are a constant in the play. Many of the instruments are on Francis O’Connor’s attractive and adaptable set throughout along with props to be used later. This talented cast play many of the characters and also as in a cinema, they play their instruments to set the beginning of each scene and comment on the one that has just ended.
    Harold is a strange young man obsessed by suicide and funerals much to the annoyance of his socialite Mama, Mrs Chasen – a flawless performance by the wonderful Rebecca Caine. She carries much of the comedy during the first part of the play and it is up to her and the musicians to set the tone of the production. Here is a wealthy American family thrown into a states of absolute confusion by the son’s abortive efforts to commit suicide. Mrs Chasen takes these startling events with a slight amount of annoyance but without much in the way of panic unlike the new maid Marie (Anne White) who is terrified when she finds the boy hanging by the neck in the middle of the drawing room and is sent into a tap dancing frenzy.
    The show is full of tiny pieces of joy, many that I don’t remember from the first time I saw the play. Some of the fun comes from Harold and the way he deals with the crazy young women presented to him as prospective wives. Mrs Chasen has procured them from a Datings Agency and all are played by the lovely Joanna Hickman.
    I enjoyed the play better this time. I found it funnier and less sentimental than the first time round. I still cannot quite comes to terms with the ending – but this is the fault of the writer and the moral attitudes of the time it was written.